In this blog smallwater specialist Stuart Smitham visits Halliford Mere trout fishery, situated on the outskirts of West London. Read on to find out more about this interesting venue and how the fishing was.
Where it all started for us. I was posted to Hounslow in or around 1998 for public duties and by chance had heard of a small fishery, offering trout fishing on a Catch & Release ticket. Situated near Heathrow Airport and near the bustling M25 and M3 motorways, this venue was a gravel pit. It’s stones and gravel no doubt used to build the surrounding road ways, that are now a familiar feature in our day to day lives.
Some months ago, I was chatting with my good friend Michael Valler, when he mentioned he wanted to try another trout fishery, so I put Halliford Mere forward as a choice of destination for a future day trip. I phoned the fishery on the 25th April and spoke to the owner/ manager Bill who runs the fishery with his brother Gerry. They also run the very successful restaurant which won a Les Routiers award for Venue of the Year 2017. With a full a’la Carte menu and Seafood, you could be spoiled for choice.
With around 15 acres of fishing and utilising four lakes, this fishery has a lot to offer, for a slim £20 C&R ticket. Three of the lakes offering up and Perch & Trout fishing and Lake 4 is a predator lake with some very large Pike lurking the depths. One thing is for sure, we’ll have to work hard to get a fish to the net today, as the sun starts burning the low cloud away and the all too familiar sound of jets streaking to sunnier climes. Having gleaned some info from Bill on the previous Tuesday, we arrive on Saturday having travelled the short journey from Michael’s house.
Mrs Valler isn’t keen on us losing weight today, so she has put a snack bag together to feed a small Army. We have lots of flies to try, so as we drive in the fishery we park up and go to meet Gerry in the restaurant and pay for our day tickets. There’s a chap on the main lake, trying to tempt fish that are on the fin, in the lake centre and they’re having none of it. Some of these look like lumps, plus there are brown buzzer coming off, right now?
Gerry gives us the run down on the lakes and some idea on depths we can expect, stating the main lake is around 22 feet, so I get some idea leader length? We get to the car with fumbling fingers and hasty tackle ups. Some of the better casting points on the main lake are already being used, so we opt to wander off to Lake 2 for a sniff around. There’s a regular here who feeds us some info on what he fishes, then tells us about the 30lb Pike he lost on the main lake the other week. Now a pike is one thing, but a 30lb pike is quite something else. We start a wander, to find feeding fish and end up walking past the houses that back onto the main lake and lake 2.
Ending up directly opposite the chap we just spoke to, Mick has the Airflo Super Dri Bandit, 10 feet of 7lb G3 tippet and a single black buzzer with a gold rib and red tag. He’s also using and airlock indictor, which float really well and can be adjusted up or down the leader, without affecting the leaders strength. Me, I opt for Super Dri Mend, which is a great line for supporting heavy flies, being slightly thicker and is Hi Vis in the sharp sunlight. I have 14 ft of 7lb G3 and I put a dropper on, around 5 feet from the fly line tip. A #14 Black Mirage Cormie on the dropper and a Pearly green buzzer on point.
From our area on a spit, we can see fish moving and smashing buzzers coming off on a wind ruffled segment in the middle of this water. Try as we might, we get nothing so opt for some fun. There are fish moving with a rod length of us, so Mick now puts on a green beaded shammie and I have a red beaded one to try to get a reaction. Mick makes a cast and starts moving his lure in toward us. I leave mine static. Mick makes re-cast and starts talking to me, when he misses a hard pull and starts cursing! I then miss a take too. Serves us both right for not watching eh?
We continue this for a while and see more fish starting to rise to buzzer. We make a bold move up to Church Bay on Lake 3, after getting some hot info from our friend, but when we get there, there’s a lot weed and the banks side fringes are choked with weed, so we wander back to the main lake. After a few tentative casts into some very dark deep holes, we can hear our bellies talking, so a brew and some scotch eggs are very welcome. Re-energised we start a cast and peek around the bottom of the main lake near the road in.
Mick now has an Olive Damsel knotted on with a silver Tungsten head and silli legs trailing off it. I have changed to 17ft of tippet and a single tanksie lure, in black and green with a black 4mm brass bead at the head. I can hear this whistling past me as I cast, so I check the position of my glasses before starting the retrieve. I am fan casting in short and medium length shoots and spot a faint shadow on right heading for me. I stop retrieving and regret it straight away! A brown of around six pounds just sidles by as I’m left pulling line in, to make a re-cast in front of this beast. Nothing?? We move to the opposite side of the Lodge and restaurant and some other chaps are trying to tempt the trout in the lake centre. These fish have seen a line or two before and are out of my range, because we have restricted back cast room with hedges and trees.
Moving up a peg, I can get a line out and miss what I think was a fish. Then bring back some weed about three-foot long. With weed choked lake fringes at the top end of the main lake, we wander again. As we walk into what looks like a secluded section on lake 3, Mick heads for a point and I make for some tree covered bank, that offers an opportunity for challenging casting. I now have about 18 feet of tippet and a Yellow hot body with a white tail. This little gold head works well and has a fluttering action in the tail. Second cast to the far bank and I lock up, the see a small brown around 2.5lb spit the hook and give me the fin. Gutted yet ready again, I make another cast to the same spot. I watch the fly come back then see the flash, Instead of waiting to feel the hit, I line strike straight down chopping my line hand away. That’s when the rod tip comes to life.
That was some take, so I ask Mick to pop a few picks off while I play the sprightly Halliford Bow. After a few snaps it streaks back down into the dark water. I lengthen my cast and shoot about 40 feet of line under the trees. Success straight off and Mick comes over to see the hustle and bustle, as a hard-scrapping bow sparkles the water surface with a splashy head thrash.
Mick moves ahead of me and starts small casts into the margins. Most of my fish are deep but just visible in the gloomy water. Mick misses a take and so do I. This little hot bed area is pretty cool with lots of activity. I miss several takes because I’m watching Mick then glancing back and catching the pluck on the my fly.
We move to a point which is a great area for casting a long line. I start joking with Mick about getting a smiley pick with a fish, when he locks up! He is well chuffed and fights this fish hard. Rod bent and smiling like a Cheshire cat, he just releases the pressure on the hook hold slightly. Just enough for the feisty bow to slip the hook as Mick is ready to net it. Supremely gutted, Mick checks is rig then changes his leader to about 12 feet long and casts out. I make a long cast with the hauling zone outside the tip ring. That’s over 60 feet of line out, then thump thump and my rod tip starts dancing. What a hit that is! I start gaining line then lose it again? I’m now thinking big fish, so play it safe and gain line slowly. The fish is coming in, so I reel in the line on the deck and gain the upper hand. My line banding is shooting in and out of the water as we both try attempt the battles wits. Then it pops the water surface in a splashy scrap and I slide the net under. What a tussle and this fish is around 2.5lb so nothing massive, but a nice tail explains the fights all to clearly.
I rest on the peg as my toes are killing me! Before anyone says anything, I don’t have feet like a hobbit. Because the points of the lakes are slanted, you end up pushing your feet into the front of your boots. Hence me taking a rest Lol. I encourage Mick to watch his line, he is fishing one of our fave flies, the techno cat. A Cats whisker with a red bead head. Mick is using the FTA method and makes a long pull, after some plucks and stops, then just brings the fly back to the surface and misses a splashy follow and take.
I tell Mick to make a long cast near the reeded far bank. He is about to start a retrieve when I stop him. I tell him we don’t know the depth there, so let it sink few seconds more, then make a pull. As soon as he starts the pull, he gets hit and the fish spits the fly at the surface! Unbelievable or what? He makes another cast just to the right of his last cast and the banded starts juddering? Mick strikes and he is in!!! Keeping up pressure with no let up, I give Mick my net as I’m shooting pics off like mad. He leans down and pushes the net out and this bow pops the hook!! You couldn’t write this could you?? Don’t answer that.
As the afternoon starts ebbing away, we both realise that time is not on our side. We have to negotiate the M25 and M3 again, but this time when everyone else is driving on it? We have the last, last casts and walk toward the lodge at 4pm. Catching Gerry at the lodge and Bill who looks very dapper in readiness for an evening in the restaurant. We tell them about the Brown at the bottom of the main lake, then find out that they haven’t stocked Brownies for a few years, yet we’ve seen two??
A good day and one Mick will remember as the day that could have been? I would have loved to see Mick with a fish in his hands, but that was not to be. From my perspective, a nice fishery with £20 for a C&R ticket. Dark water bright fly worked a charm for us. It did take a while to cotton onto the ideal method, but it was good fun trying different approaches and tactics.
Super Dri Mend came through again for me. It just floats like a cork and shoots really well, even with heavy flies. G3 came up trumps! Zero breakages, even on the hard pulls and lunges. Impressive
So, if your ever in London and stuck for a place to wet a line, give Bill & Gerry a buzz. Take the Mrs and enjoy the evening stroll after your meal. Whatever you think of Halliford Mere, all I can do is give you a flavour of what we enjoyed on our day. Lets hope yours is, as enjoyable as ours.